Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The Echo

Recently I posted a rant about remakes of foreign horror movies. I complained they were unnecessary and, by definition, of low quality. Well, I might now have make room for a large serving of humble pie because I just watched The Echo and it was all right.

After being released on parole, Bobby moves into his dead mother's apartment. He doesn't know much about what happened to her, but he finds out that she had locked herself in her closet and eventually starved to death. While cleaning up, Bobby finds a tape recorder, and message from his mother--the mad ravings of a woman haunted by strange noises. But Bobby hears the noises too. He can also hear his neighbours fighting, and is privy to the domestic violence taking place next door. Eventually he decides to take action against the abuser, but when that proves to be unsuccessful, Bobby is at a loss as to what to do. After another neighbour dies, and the sounds in his apartment begin to haunt him at work, Bobby is determined to get to the bottom of things. Only, he doesn't like what he finds.

This film is a remake of a 2004 Filipino horror movie called Sigaw. Both Sigaw and The Echo were directed by Yam Laranas, and from what I understand, the latter preserves a lot of the atmosphere of the original. In truth, I know very little about Sigaw, but I do know the main character was recast as an ex-con for the American version--a change I find to be wholly unnecessary.

Without embarking on too much of a tirade, I will say that I can think of no good reason why Bobby should be a newly-minted former criminal. His backstory adds nothing to his character and reads as a deliberate attempt to infuse some extra drama into the proceedings. Though Bobby is trying to put his life back together, he encounters a certain amount of opposition because, unsurprisingly, people are wary of him. However, when his neighbour dies, Bobby is questioned by the police but he's never suspected of murder even though we're meant to expect it. What's more is that when we come to the film's climax, Bobby's checkered past does nothing to influence the events onscreen.

I won't go so far to say the film doesn't live up to expectations, it's just that it appears to be building up to something that is quickly forgotten when the main plot kicks in. The movie also delivers a strong message about civic duty, but, in counter to this is another message about consequences, which has the unfortunate effect of undermining the movie's point. Because Bobby was sent up for involuntary manslaughter, he was, essentially, punished for protecting his girlfriend from a potential rapist. Should he now attempt to protect a complete stranger, when it's likely he might suffer for it? His mother chose not to help and it drove her insane. Thus, The Echo seems to ask its audience to first consider the consequences of your actions (or inaction) before making a final decision even though, in the world of the film, taking action is always the right thing to do.

I'll admit, I had this movie figured out early on, but the film still succeeds in creating a brooding atmosphere. The plot's slow-burn is piqued by a few good creepy moments. All-in-all not a bad film, and it speaks out loudly against domestic violence, abuse, and apathy.